Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Review: Anatomy for Strength and Fitness Training



Anatomy for Strength and Fitness Training

By Mark Vella
144 pages, published 2006.
$19.95

There are a few books out there that provide an anatomical view of exercises. They mostly seem on the surface like an excuse to draw cut-away shots of men and women exercising. They're useful for fitness professionals trying to better understand the relationship of exercises to musculature, and for fitness enthusiasts in general looking to broaden their knowledge of anatomy.

The book is split into two parts. Part 1 is called "Overview of Anatomy" and it's exactly that. An overview of the musculoskeletal system, planes of body movement, anatomical terms and exercises, posture, and exercise analysis.

Part 1 contains some very useful elements. It thoroughly explains the layout and presentation used in Part 2. It contains a list of common prefixes, suffixes, and word roots of exercise and anatomical terms. This makes it clear that hip adduction, for example, means "movement of the hip towards the midline of the body" because that's what adduction describes. Or that the "con-" in "concentric contraction" means muscle attachments moving together. Very educational, and perhaps surprisingly useful. The usual maps of the muscular structure of the body and the skeleton are there as well. But so are anatomical terms, joint movement terms, pelvic positions, explanations of "open chain" versus "closed chain" exercises.

The only downside is that there is a fairly generic "training goals" table for designing your own workout. It's so broad as to be useless if you're a newbie, but so general that it's useless if you're experienced. For example, it says for Weight Loss, you want 2-4 workouts a week, for 15-30 min (not including cardio), a load of 4-6 on a 1-10 scale (so 40-60% weight), 15-30 reps, 1-2 sets, rest of 15-30 seconds. Armed with that and a list of exercises, could you design yourself a good fat loss workout? Maybe an experienced trainer could, but so much will depend on your exercise choice, your fitness level, and your other activities. It gives too broad of a range...2x a week for 15 minutes, 1 set, 15 reps, 40% of 1RM on one end to 4x a week for 30 minutes, 2 sets, 30 reps, 60% of one rep max. It doesn't give you an idea of how to scale them. Later in the book it gives a couple of sample workouts, but they're pretty generic "8-12 exercises for 2-3 sets" don't mesh well with the earlier advice. In my opinion, it would have be been skipped or dealt with more thoroughly.

Part 2 is the real meat of the book - "Anatomy of Exercise." Theese are the chapters on exercises. They are organized by body part or function, specifically:

Chest
Legs and hips
Back and shoulders
Arms
Abdominals, stabilization, and balance
Stretching
Total body and power exercise

Each exercise comes with:

- basic description of form
- a description of technique (generally very good)
- tips for good form
- analysis of movement by joints
- a list of stabilizing muscles and prime movers
- a color drawing of a trainee executing the movement, with transparent skin to reveal the (well-labeled) muscles

No surprise in a book like this, it contains a lot of machine exercises common in gyms. This is probably a good sales point - users of those machines are a big market. It also contains exercises not commonly includes along side the pec deck and leg extension - snatches, power cleans, deadlifts, planks, and even some yoga poses (in the balance section).

Rating:
Content: 4 out of 5. Contains a lot of good information, only weakened by the inclusion of some incomplete material.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well organized, easy to read, with clear pictures and text.

Overall: If you're studying for an anatomy exam or personal training exam, it's worth checking this out. It's also helpful if you're interested in finding out more about the muscles you're using when you lift. For designing your own workout, it's inadequate but would be a useful adjunct.

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